Today is a very important day. No, not because I received some Ranalisma rostrata in the mail, but because if a bill currently in hearings in Congress is passed, I won't be able to buy plants from fellow hobbyists, or even keep them at all.
You may or may not have heard of HR 669, also known as the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, but it will significantly affect the aquascaping hobby if it becomes law. Ultimately, it prevents importation, trade, and transportation of a selection of nonnative species in the US. Not all nonnative species will be outlawed, but any deemed dangerous to local ecosystems. There has been a lot of wild and crazy stuff reported about HR 669 (no your nonnative species of dog will not be destroyed) but if it does become law, it will seriously impact the species of plants, fish, and shrimp available to the hobby today.
For hobbyists, it means a drastically reduced selection. We would be limited to plants not banned, which will mainly be native plants (like Didiplis diandra). We would be able to keep the plants we have but would have to be able to prove we had them before the law was enacted. We also wouldn't be able to trade or transport these species between states. That means no more buying or trading aquatic plants from fellow hobbyists. For fish and shrimp, the same rules would apply, except that breeding the animals (whether intentional or not) would also be illegal. Clearly, this legistlation would take a lot of the fun out of the hobby and severly impact the numbers of people who currently enjoy it.
For those in the industry of supplying these plants and animals, and the products to care for them, this law will effectively put them out of business. Think of your local fish store and how many species would be considered nonnative. Probably over 90% if not all of them. Coupled with the hobbyists who will have lost interest in the hobby no longer purchasing pet supplies, the entire industry is in for a harsh and rapid reduction in size. This is why they've been lobbying so hard against HR 669.
I understand the aim of HR 669 and I certainly support restrictions on nonnative wildlife to prevent damage to local ecosystems. However, a balance needs to be reached. Outlawing the posession of plants and animals that almost every hobbyist owns is not going to help the problem, and may even make it worse. What happens to all those illegal species when people discover that they are breaking the law? I can assure you that not all of them will be disposed of properly.
You can find more information on the bill, including the full text, which I encourage you to read (it's not that dry, and has some very important information), a site against HR 669, and a list of things you can do to make your voice heard on HR 669. Today only you can also follow the Congressional hearing on HR 669 via a live blog.
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